Letter: Congress is not exempt from health law
Over the past week, constituents have contacted my offices after hearing a false rumor: that Congress has exempted itself from the new health-care law.
Let me set the record straight: Members of Congress and our staffs are not exempted under the Affordable Care Act.
In fact, due to an amendment that was introduced by Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley and became part of the eventual law, members and congressional staff are the only Americans who will be removed from their current employer-provided coverage next year and asked to find coverage in the new marketplaces. All other Americans who have employer-sponsored insurance are encouraged and expected to keep their coverage.
The recent rumor was sparked in response to an announcement by the Office of Personnel Management, an independent federal agency that is responsible for all federal employees’ health plans. OPM confirmed that it will continue to make employer contributions toward congressional employees’ coverage, as it did before, although members and staffers will now be choosing plans from their state marketplaces instead of from the Federal Employees Health Benefits program.
As NPR pointed out, “Just to be clear, members of Congress and their staff aren’t getting special treatment when it comes to their health insurance. They’re just keeping the employer contribution every other federal employee gets.”
Back in 2009, Congress designed the Affordable Care Act to increase health-care affordability and access.
It has made progress on both counts, but I know there are still some difficulties to work out. As key provisions take effect over the next year, I will keep working to make sure the law improves affordability and access for families and small businesses in New Hampshire.
U.S. Rep. CAROL SHEA-PORTER
(The writer is a Democrat who represents New Hampshire’s 1st District in Congress.)